Posts tagged Liver

Essiac (B.S.S.T.)

Essiac is a unique 4-herb formula with a long history of use for its amazing healing properties. It contains Burdock (Arctium lappa), Sheep Sorrel (Rumex cetosella), Turkey Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva) powder. This formula is based on a decoction originally developed and used by the Canadian Ojibwa Indians and is also called Ojibwa Tea. This herbal formula was discovered by nurse Rene Caisse in 1922 after talking with a patient who had been cured of breast cancer by a combination of herbs from an Indian medicine man. Caisse treated seriously ill patients with remarkable success for over 50 years.

There are many traditional uses of the 4-herb formula, but Essiac is most famous for its use in cancer patients; however, scientific proof is still lacking (though the individual herbs are each known to have specific anti-cancer action, among many other documented properties). There are also many potential benefits for our pets, including:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidant
  • anti-ulcer and stomach tonic
  • appetite stimulant
  • blood cleanser
  • blood sugar stabilizer
  • detoxification
  • heart and lung support and tonic
  • immune system enhancement
  • liver protectant
  • prebiotic and probiotic
  • supportive care
  • thyroid normalization
  • tonic
  • reduction of chemotherapy side effects
  • supportive therapy for cancer patients

The herbs are usually brewed into a decoction (strong tea); but they can also be extracted into a tincture. (There are also many products containing the herbs in dried, powdered form, but these are ineffective–the active principles must be decocted or tinctured in order to work in the body.) A tincture is more convenient and easier to administer than tea since smaller quantities can be used, and it also is more stable and has a much longer shelf life.

On a personal note, I gave this 4-herb formula to my dog after he had a malignant tumor removed; it never returned despite its known aggressive nature. I have used it for my own cats, as well as many patients, and I take it myself as a general tonic and immune support.

Only Natural Pet offers the same 4-herb formula in tincture in a product called B.S.S.T. (the initials, of course, stand for Burdock, Sheep Sorrel, Slippery Elm, and Turkey Rhubarb).

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Helping the Liver with Milk Thistle

Recently we talked about seizure disorders; as mentioned, one cause of seizures in dogs is liver disease. This is usually seen in young dogs with a congenital malformation of the blood vessels inthe liver (shunt), but it can also occur in adult dogs as a result of injury, infection, or toxic exposure.

The liver is the body’s major organ of detoxification, and it works primarily on things we and our pets eat. All blood leaving the digestive tract passes through the liver before entering the main circulation. This unusual route allows the liver to filter, remove, and metabolize potentially toxic substances. Many pharmaceuticals take advantage of this by delivering drugs in a form that will survive the acidity of the stomach and be metabolized into an active form in the liver.

Many drugs, however, put a major burden on the liver, including prednisone and similar steroids, and–ironically–the primary drugs used to treat seizures.

The other unusual trait of the liver is its regenerative powers. For most organs and major body parts, once they’re injured or removed, that’s the end of the story. Healing–when even possible–consists mainly of scar tissue formation. However, the liver has an amazing ability to regenerate itself. In humans, even as little as 20% of the liver can be transplanted yet still provide the patient with normal liver function. That’s why it pays such big dividends to keep the liver healthy! One way to do that is with the herb Milk Thistle.

What It Is

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering plant in the Aster family. A native of Europe, it has been used since the time of the Roman empire as a liver tonic. It grows wild in many parts of the world, including the Pacific Northwest area of the U.S., where it is considered an invasive weed.

Milk thistle is one of very few herbs widely accepted by conventional science to have significant medicinal value. Today we know the active ingredient of milk thistle seed extract as a flavonoid compound called “silymarin.”  Silymarin, which is itself a combination of several other active compounds, has been extensively studied around the world, and has been shown to be safe and effective in treating a variety of liver diseases and other conditions. It specifically protects the liver against toxins (including some molds such as aflatoxin, drugs, and heavy metals), activates protein synthesis, and stimulates growth of new liver cells to replace those that are dead or damaged. Milk thistle also has strong antioxidant (destroys oxygen free radicals) and anti-inflammatory actions.

What It Does

Silymarin reaches high levels in the bile and liver (it also reaches significant levels in the lungs, pancreas, prostate, and skin). It can be used in the treatment of hepatic lipidosis (a common disease in cats), chronic hepatitis, cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), and pericholangitis (inflammation of the tissue around the bile ducts). It may be useful in preventing or treating gallstones by thinning the bile. Many cats and dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also have inflammation of the liver, bile system, and/or pancreas, and would benefit from supplementation with milk thistle.

Milk thistle can be used as an aid to healing after drug therapy, vaccinations, and infections such as feline distemper or canine parvovirus, as well as a  cancer. It may also help prevent diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes that causes degeneration of the nerves controlling the hind limbs.

Milk thistle also supports the immune system through its powerful antioxidant, free-radical scavenging action, its ability to preserve the supply of another important antioxidant, glutathione, as well as direct effects on immune cells. Glutathione, which is stored primarily in the liver, naturally declines over time, and depletion of this protein appears to accelerate the aging process.

While it’s not exactly the fountain of youth, milk thistle clearly has wide-ranging positive effects throughout the body. However, before you add this potent herb to your pet’s daily regimen “just in case” it might do some good, herbalists believe milk thistle is best reserved as a treatment for existing disease, rather than being used by itself in a healthy animal.

How to Use

The standard dosage of milk thistle extract is based on a silymarin content of around 80 percent; most supplements contain anywhere from 50-500 milligrams (175 mg is typical). As with many supplements, it’s probably better to buy a milk thistle derivative rather than a silymarin-only or other fractional supplement, since there may be other compounds found in the whole herb that significantly enhance the effects of what science has decided is the main player.

Because of its excellent safety record and lack of adverse drug interactions, when treating a very sick animal with advanced liver disease, up to 200 mg per 10 pounds of body weight of milk thistle extract may be needed. For most purposes, however, one-third to one-half of that dose is more than adequate.

Animals with liver disease may not have much appetite, but it’s easy to open up a capsule, mix the appropriate amount of powdered herb with a little blenderized food or baby food, and feed by syringe. Too high a dose can cause an upset tummy, gas, or mild diarrhea; just give less if this occurs.

Human research studies have shown that it is more effective to administer this herb in three or four small portions over the day than in one large daily dose. A simple dosing schedule of morning, after work, and bedtime works very well. We have several excellent milk thistle products available.

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Taking Care of the Liver

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It is a crucial part of the digestive system, as well as playing a role in the immune system. Most blood from the intestinal tract is routed through the liver for detoxification. The liver can operate effectively with only 20% of its cells working, so it has a large reserve capacity. Without the liver, the body is doomed within days. But the good news is that, with proper support, the liver can completely regenerate itself after injury or disease. These traits make the liver truly remarkable; and mean that even serious liver disease is survivable and has a much better prognosis than similar damage to other organs.

The liver is also one of the few organs with key differences between dogs and cats. The dog’s liver is very similar to that of humans and other mammals. However, a cat’s liver contains fewer metabolic enzymes and has a diminished ability to handle toxins. The development of liver disease is also due to different causes between dogs and cats. In dogs, liver failure is commonly due to congenital problems, traumatic injury, infections, or other disease. Cats, on the other hand, can develop liver disease not only from infection or trauma, but also from seemingly minor stresses, such as not eating enough for whatever reason.

Keeping the Liver Healthy.
Preventing liver disease is a whole lot easier than curing it. A high-quality diet, including at least some wet food for both dogs and cats, is the first and most basic step. Additionally, there are herbal and nutritional supplements that can support and strengthen the liver so that it can handle damage and disease more efficiently. Supportive supplements with specific benefits for the liver include:

Probiotics to balance the digestive system
Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend
Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes
Pet Naturals Digest Support for Cats and Dogs

Antioxidants to prevent and reduce inflammation
Only Natural Pet Whole Food Antioxidant Blend
Vetri-Science Antiox

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, also have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Only Natural Pet Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil
 

Co-Enzyme Q10 to enhance cellular metabolism and prevent the formation of damaging oxygen free radicals. It is best absorbed in an oil formulation, such as:
Vetri-Science CoQsol

General support for liver health and nose-to-tail wellness. If you want keep things simple and give just one terrific supplement to your pet, these products contain milk thistle, taurine, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, and Omega-3 fatty acids, along with important vitamins and minerals:

Only Natural Pet Super Daily Canine Senior
Only Natural Pet Super Daily Feline Senior
 

Supplementing your pet’s diet with a portion of cooked organic calves’ or chicken liver once or twice a week will provide all the ingredients needed to keep the liver in good repair. It’s important to buy it fresh and organic because the liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ, and there may be stored toxins in non-organic that could harm your pet.

If Your Pet is Sick.
In dogs with liver disease, a precise diagnosis is important. This usually involves blood tests, and possibly also ultrasound or even biopsy of the liver. Different causes need different treatment. For example, in a puppy with a liver shunt (an abnormal blood vessel that bypasses the important detoxification processes of the liver), a high protein diet—which is normally fine for the liver—could be deadly. Cats have a less diverse potential problem list, mostly involving either inflammation or hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). Signs are similar, and treatment in cats nearly always comes down to: “feed the liver,” although specific treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed, depending on the cause of the problem. Unfortunately, feeding an animal with liver disease both crucial and difficult, since these pets tend to not want to eat at all. Force-feeding or even surgical placement of a feeding tube may be necessary components of treatment. Just mix the supplements with a little blenderized canned food, and force-feed the mixture by syringe or via tube. Here are a few tips to make this process easier:

  • Mix up the whole day’s worth of food in the morning, with all the supplements in it.
  • Set aside a portion for the first feeding, and put the remainder in the refrigerator.
  • For subsequent feedings, take out the appropriate portion, mix a little hot water in to warm and soften it, and you’re ready to go.

The herb milk thistle is an important healer for the liver in times of stress or disease. It protects the liver from toxins and helps it regenerate.
The active ingredient of milk thistle, “silymarin,” reaches high levels in the bile and liver tissue. It can be used in the treatment of hepatic lipidosis, chronic hepatitis (generalized liver inflammation), cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), and pericholangitis (inflammation of the tissue around the bile ducts). It may be useful in preventing or treating some liver problems, as well as gallstones, by thinning the bile.
It is very safe. You can give up to 250 mg of milk thistle daily for every 10 pounds of your pet’s body weight. It is most effective when given in smaller portions throughout the day than in one big dose. Two of our favorite milk thistle products are:

Super Milk Thistle X
Only Natural Pet Liv-Herb Herbal Formula

Omega-3 fatty acids can be given at higher doses for a sick animal. Give 2 or 3 times the normally recommended amount; up to 3,000 mg per day for a large dog.

Carnitine, an amino acid, is extremely important for cats with hepatic lipidosis, but is helpful for all dogs and cats, especially those who eat a lot of high-carbohydrate dry food. Give 250-500 mg/day for a cat. Carnitine is also important for heart muscle function in both dogs and cats. Our highest potency products are:

Vetri-Science Cardio-Strength



Vitaline L-Carnitine

A pet with liver disease needs professional care from your veterinarian, but you can greatly help the healing process with the right supplements, and of course plenty of TLC!

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